Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book: I Am Christ

I Am ChristI Am Christ by Michael Sherlock
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

According to the bio at the end of the book, ’Michael is deeply troubled by the infirmities of this world and will not rest until he has done everything in his power, to at least attempt, to remedy them.' One of those infirmities is "belief" and, in this book, Michael sets out to disabuse the world of this life and death threat.

There are lots of good points made in the book but the problem is that they are buried amongst overwrought hyperbole and highly emotive, sarcastic language (the author sees himself as ’sarcastic and slightly antagonisitic’). But “slightly” is an understatement. The entire first part of the book is highly emotive, full of hyperbole, and written in a style that undermines the intention (I assume) to present a rational, objective case against belief - particularly the beliefs of Christianity (especially fundamentalist Christianity). By the end of the wordy and repetitive first section I really felt irritated and had to resolve to persevere onto the next section. The title of the first section is ’Belief: Cognitive Constipation’ - the subtitle being an apt description of its contents despite making an essentially good point.

Parts 2 and 3 are a polemical attack on Christianity and the historicity of Jesus Christ. Once again, there is some good material in these sections but, once again, the style of writing is confrontational, sarcastic, antagonistic, and laborious.

One of the more serious criticisms I'd make of the book is its lack of fair-mindedness. While the author does, at times, summarise some of the arguments opposing his view, they are not presented in a way which communicates good faith and an unbiased perspective. The author clearly has a vested interest in the issue and, unfortunately, he does not take care to present his case in rational, objective language free of emotionality. This feature of the writing would undoubtedly alienate many readers, particularly fundamentalist Christians, who one assumes, if his intention to liberate people from the prison of belief is genuine, would be included in the intended audience.

The are a whole range of other problems with the book which I don't have the time or inclination to document (eg, caricatures of general Christian beliefs rather than recognising the diversity of perspectives; engaging in speculation similar to that the author criticises to mock certain fundamentalist doctrines; and so on).

The problem with all this is that, to glean what is good from the book, an enormous amount of critical thinking needs to be done unless, of course, a person is already persuaded of the perspective and just wants to laugh along at the sarcasm, mockery, and attempts at humour (some of it successful!) thrown at those the author thinks are liars or stupid. There is no genuine engagement with the best Christian scholarship on the subjects covered and quite a few “straw men” that are easily destroyed.

In my opinion, there are much better books on the topic which take a critical look at the claims Christians make about the Bible, Jesus Christ and their beliefs. This book could have been so much better if a good editor was to be involved. I look forward to a second edition if that process was ever engaged in.

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